Let's face it, there's a "month" for everything but the kitchen sink, and there may be one for that as well. July has been deemed "Social Wellness Month," but it unfortunately doesn't get much attention. Perhaps it should for those who are most vulnerable to the negative outcomes of social isolation, the senior citizens of our community.
What is Social Wellness? It is nurturing yourself and your relationships with others. It is giving and receiving social support to ensure that you have friends and family to turn to in times of need or crisis. It is having a positive self-image. Social wellness is important because healthy relationships are a vital component of your overall health. There are many health risks associated with being alone or isolated, and some go as far to compare them to the risks associated with smoking cigarettes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Research show that people who have a strong social network tend to: live longer, respond better to stress (including their heart and blood pressure), have overall healthier endocrine and cardiovascular systems, and have immune systems with enhanced abilities to fight off infectious diseases.
To cultivate some habits of social wellness, you can follow these guidelines:
Practice self-care. Finding balance in life can be difficult at times, and we are much more prepared to deal with obstacles if we practice self-care. This means getting enough sleep, bathing and brushing your teeth, eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding negative coping mechanisms like smoking and over-drinking.
Use positive coping skills to manage stress. Self-sooth and relax through creative outlets like hobbies, crafts, art, sports activities, hiking, dancing, and social interactions with friends (just be sure to practice proper social distancing guidelines). You can also choose activities that nurture you emotionally, mentally, or spiritually, such as meditation, yoga, journalism, taking classes in areas of interest, spiritual retreats, or attending religious services.
Get to know yourself. Identify YOUR needs, preferences, and values. Then, communicate those to the people around you. Knowing who you are, who you want to be, and where your boundaries lie, enables you to engage in positive relations with people who have similar interests and values.
Don't criticize, judge, or blame. People can easily get caught up in self-critical thinking, which perpetrates low self-esteem, that can contribute to depression and anxiety, and inhibits social interaction.
Rekindle old friendships and nurture relationships with people who are respectful, positive, and supportive. No human being is perfect. Everyone gets caught up in the challenges of daily life at times, and rekindling old relations that have been positive ones in the past is a great way to strengthen your social support system.
Be aware of commitments you make, and keep them. Know your limitations and don't spread yourself too thin. Before making a commitment, be sure that you can realistically meet that expectation, considering any prior commitments and time for self-care.
The good thing about attempting social wellness in today's times of social distancing, is that you can now do almost all of it virtually! Giving more energy to positives rather than negatives helps keep us happier, healthier, and overall more hopeful. Regularly acknowledging the positive things you see in yourself and paying general compliments to others you care about feels good all the way around!
Written by: Care Manager - Kelly Foster, LPN, CM
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